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Lee Myung-bak's North Korean Policy Reaches a Dead End as Flood Aid Fails to Fall Through
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We got our hopes up only to be disappointed once again. A couple of days ago, the North Korean Red Cross flatly refused the flood aid plans proposed by the Lee Myung-bak government claiming that the South Korean government "is once again insulting us with some worthless supplies."

North Korea's response is extremely disappointing. However, there is a need to review the circumstances taking into consideration the North's tendency to value their pride above all else. After all, the South did make a large contribution to the cause.

Humanitarian aid should accommodate the needs of the aid beneficiaries who have suffered the natural disaster. It's difficult to show willingness to help if the aid items and volume are determined by the political needs of the country providing the aid.

Of course, caution is required not to hurt the pride of the country receiving the relief goods. Our government treated this basic premise of humanitarian aid much too lightly.

In October 2010, the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation provided North Korea's flood areas with 2,000 canisters of milk powder, 100 tons of flour, and 10 tons of rice. On October 27, 2010, trucks loaded with relief goods passed through the Inter-Korean Transit Office in Paju-si, Gyeonggi. Jeong Ji-yun

On September 11, the Ministry of Unification notified North Korea their plans to provide 10 billion won worth of relief goods including 10,000 tons of flour, 3 million packs of instant noodles, medical supplies, etc.

Last year, North Korea had refused the South's proposal to send nutritious food for infants and toddlers, instant noodles, and chocolate pies, asking for a "generous" supply of rice, cement, and equipment for repair works. The North may have gone too far in specifying the items and volume when asking for the flood aid.

Furthermore, heavy equipment is an item that the South cannot provide North Korea by law. However, if the South had the least intention to provide the North with flood aid, the government should have at least shown efforts to include rice and cement in the aid items.

The Ministry of Unification emphasized "we considered the urgency of the issue," when releasing the aid items to the press for the first time a couple of days ago, but North Korea's natural disasters started this spring. North Korea suffered its worst drought in 50 years, followed by torrential downpours which continued from late June.

Before they could recover from the rain, they suffered further damages from typhoons Bolaven and Tembin last month. They say 176 people have died or are missing, and 15,000 houses were destroyed leaving 220,000 refugees. UN Food and Agriculture Organization reported last month that North Korea's rice crop will decrease by 7% this year due to the drought and rains.

Excluding rice and cement from the aid items, when the government knew that North Korea was in urgent need of them, shows that the government was never willing to help North Korea from the start. Flood aid to North Korea has its own humanitarian purposes, but it was also an opportunity to restore at least in part the failed inter-Korean relationship and relieve some of the burden on the next government.

It could also have been a chance to work towards a reunion of separated families within the year. However, the North Korean policy of the Lee Myung-bak government just drew the curtains without any progress early 5 months before the end of his term.

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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